The opera field continued to expand, becoming a $287.5 million enterprise in 1986-87 (the last year surveyed), while diversifying its artistic offerings and recovering from previous financial setbacks, according to OPERA America's recent survey of the professional opera companines in North America.

The survey encompasses operations and finances of 90 companies in the United States and Canada, whose budgets ranged from $59,400 to $83,835,000.Production of new works was the most significant trend, with world premieres rising from four in 1985-86 to 14 projected for 1988-89. (Opera for the '80s andBeyond, a program of Opera America, has awarded $225,000 to seven opera companies to commission and produce new works.)

Ninety-six OPERA America companies presented 2,254 performances, fully staged with orchestra during main seasons and festivals. The 10 most frequently staged works accounted for 31 percent of all productions, but 88 works received just one production each, making up one-fifth of all productions.

Attendance reached an all-time high of 3,802,793 in 1986-87, an increase of 54 percent over the past five years, with professional companies playing to an average of 85 percent capacity.

Total attendance at all opera events of 105 companies topped 6,641,000, for all sorts of performances, a total increase of 9 percent over the past five years. Average ticket prices were $24.94 for single tickets and $100.37 for subscription packages. Fifty-six percent of companies offered tickets at $10 and less, while 85 percent offered discounts to special groups.

The opera field's aggregate expenses reached $290.3 million, while income grew to $287.5 million, for an aggregate deficit of $2.8 million. At the end of 1986-87, 61 percent of opera companies had operating surpluses, reversing a five-year trend; the year before only 46 percent posted surpluses.

There were 39 opera companies in North America with budgets of $1 million or more in fiscal year 1987. At the end of the year 16 companies had endowment funds of $500,000 or more; 47 companies had established endowments. Performance revenue provided 45 percent of income, and increased by nearly one-fifth. Earned income, the most significant source of support, rose in all to 56 percent.